by Stephen Dupuis, President & CEO BILD


December 26 - Housing industry leads way to economic recovery

As the year 2009 began, the new home building industry had a healthy internal debate as to whether to ask the federal government for a direct housing stimulus program. At the time, with the global economic crisis at its height, a case could certainly have been made for such stimulus yet the industry stuck to its principles and chose to ride out the storm without any direct support.

December 19 - Free Metropass policy should be parked

I can never predict which columns will generate the most reaction, but it seems last week-end's column on "free" Metropasses struck nerves all around. Checking my e-mail early last Saturday morning, I found my inbox was already lit up like a slot machine with messages from condo owners and condo builders, as well as City Councillor Adam Vaughan.

December 12 - The better way or the highway

Whether they want it or not, whether they need it or not, new condo buyers in the City of Toronto are going to get a "free" TTC Metropass for a year from their condo builder thanks to a recent decision by city council.

December 5 - What a difference a year makes

If anybody had said to me at the beginning of this year that new home sales would be higher in 2009 than they were in 2008, I would have taken the bet and given them odds.

November 28 - Update GST for harmony's sake

This is going to be hard for me to admit but I am guilty of the second of the seven deadly sins. I am envious. I'm envious of my colleagues in B.C. where the provincial government has introduced some very positive amendments with respect to the pending HST on new homes. Specifically, I am guilty of "threshold" envy.

November 21 - Boom, bust or bubble?

I can't believe how often I have heard the B-word of late. No, I'm not talking about "B" as in housing "boom," I'm talking about "B" as in housing "bubble."

November 14 - Permanent renovation tax credit needed

By definition, fiscal stimulus has to be short-term in nature, otherwise human nature kicks-in and people procrastinate. The federal government's home renovation tax credit is a perfect example of a well-conceived fiscal stimulus measure as Canadians have been renovating in droves ahead of the January, 2010 sunset clause for this incentive program.

November 7 - Re-inventing the GST wheel

It's not too often you hear the words intelligent and tax reform in the same sentence but that's what the C.D. Howe Institute is saying about Ontario's approach to taxing new housing under the HST. Now all we have to do is convince federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to do the same thing with the GST.

October 31 - Savvy homebuyers seize the opportunity

What a difference a year makes! Last year at this time we were at the height of the global economic crisis and new home sales for the month of September were coming in at 60 per cent lower than the previous September. The sales trend headed straight downhill from there.

October 24 - Strong homeownership aspirations revealed

When it comes to making tradeoffs and sacrifices to achieve the dream of homeownership, homebuyers are willing to give up quite a lot, but they draw the line at their cars, so much so that they would rather live with their parents longer than do without their wheels.

October 17 - Green ground-breaking for Habitat

Ground breaking ceremonies are a dime a dozen in our business. Don't get me wrong, I think they are important celebrations, but it can be hard to tell the difference between the photos of suits wearing hardhats while cutting ribbons, popping champagne corks or digging with shiny shovels.

October 10 - Why I went to church on Monday

I'll bet not many readers knew that World Habitat Day took place on Monday October 5th and if not for an invitation I received from Home Ownership Alternatives, a local company that is doing tremendously good work providing affordable homeownership to low and moderate income families, I might have missed it myself, as well as a rare trip to church on a Monday.

September 30 - Renovation takes time, talent and tools

Have you ever noticed how whenever you do something around the house, no matter how big or small, you invariably stand back and admire the way it looks and ask why you didn't do it sooner? If you've been thinking about renovating, there's never been a better time, particularly if energy efficiency is one of your goals.

September 23 - First-time buyers driving relative market recovery

I attended the Annual Conference of the Ontario Home Builders' Association this week and while I was out of town, the latest new home sales statistics arrived on my Backberry. These days, I'm very curious to open that e-mail to see if the positive market trend is holding, and new home sales in August did not disappoint.

September 16 - Immigrants quickly settle in to homeownership

Homebuilders have always understood and appreciated the importance of immigration to economic growth including housing demand, but even builders were surprised with the results of a landmark study commissioned by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation that analyzes the housing situations of immigrants arriving in Canada six months, two years and four years after arrival.

September 9 - Reno tax credit unlikely political football

If there has to be a federal election, I hope the trigger turns out to be the Home Renovation Tax Credit, and not just because, like many readers, I've got my own green envelope burgeoning with hardware store receipts ready to claim.

September 2 - What a difference a year makes

It's Labour Day week-end, and wouldn't you know that the first week of September has featured spectacular weather following a cool, wet summer. Frankly, nothing has been "normal" this year so why should the weather be any different?

Aug 26 - Building Code going green

When it comes to sustainable development and green building, everybody wants to do the right thing but sometimes doing the right thing can be done the wrong way. Recent attempts by individual municipalities to mandate green building standards would be a good example.

Aug 19 - Knock on wood

Home builder Craig Marshall was green before it was cool and he's equally passionate about the health and welfare of the homebuilding industry, so much so that he's constantly looking for positive ways to promote the sector while applying equal amounts of energy to fighting any threats, which typically come in the form of government taxation or regulation. 

Aug 12 - Underground economy costs us all

The underground economy in Canada's renovation industry grew as if it were on steroids after the federal goods and services tax (GST) was introduced in 1991 and there's no reason to believe it won't grow as quickly after the HST kicks-in on July 1, 2010. Unfortunately, that's not the only downside of the pending tax increase on this key strategic sector. 

Aug 5 - The exhilaration of a bargain

We are witnessing some rather baffling signals from the housing market this summer. What's confusing is the market seems to be much healthier than anyone expected. The resale market has been strong from the get-go while the new home market has been gathering steam all year long.

July 29 - Building homes, building hope

I'm always impressed when politicians walk a mile in someone else's shoes so I have to give credit to provincial Housing (and Municipal Affairs) Minister Jim Watson and his entire staff team for spending a day swinging hammers on a Habitat for Humanity Toronto building site last week.

July 22 - The Mayor strikes back!

I was pleasantly surprised with the action taken by Toronto Mayor David Miller earlier this week to mitigate the impact of the Civic workers strike on homebuilders and professional renovation contractors in the City of Toronto.

July 15 - Building green from the outside in

I am often called upon to tour delegations from across Canada and the U.S. around new home developments in the Greater Toronto Area and the two most common comments I get are about the density (from the Americans) and the preponderance of brick (from both the Americans and the Canadians outside Ontario).

July 8 - Green renos made easy

When it comes to new homes there are plenty of options and resources for homebuyers looking for green solutions. In fact, there's a whole continuum of labels representing various levels of energy and/or resource efficiency as well as builder-specific green features and benefits.

July 1 - There's no place like home

I have lots more to say about the HST, particularly the transition rules, the opportunity for changes to the tax structure at the federal level and the pressing need to address renovation at both levels of government, however this week, in the spirit of Canada Day, I wish to share with readers some hot off the press survey results on homeownership that are as Canadian as saying sorry.

June 24 - Housing is different, Province affirms

If you have been following my fairly critical columns (all nine of them) on the issue of sales tax harmonization, please do not adjust your set as I change my tune, however as a result of some major enhancements to the tax structure by the provincial government, that's exactly what I'm doing.

June 17- Greater Toronto housing seriously unaffordable

If your were asked to list off the top of your mind the world's most expensive housing markets, chances are you would come up with London, England, New York or Los Angeles if not Paris, France or Dubai.

June 10 - Canadian mortgage finance system supports homeownership

I recently returned from a BILD-organized housing study tour of Denver, Colorado and while the participating builders and designers took plenty of inspiration and ideas from the many great communities we visited, the thing that stuck in my mind the most was how many times I heard the "F-word" while in the U.S.

June 3 - There's never been a better time to renovate

Homeowners have a very rare, albeit time-limited opportunity to triple-dip on some federal and provincial government assistance programs designed to stimulate the economy while reducing energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and your heating, cooling and electrical bills.

May 27 - A memo to municipalities

Last week I highlighted several municipalities in the Greater GTA who are choosing to become partners in prosperity with the housing industry by rolling back, holding the line or introducing modest, single-digit increases to their development charges. Kudos went to the City of Toronto, Oshawa, Durham Region, Burlington and Milton as well as the Dufferin-Peel Boards of Education (see yourhome.ca or newhomes.org).

May 20 - Municipalities becoming partners in prosperity

It's still too early to declare that "peace is at hand," however we're seeing some very encouraging signs from a number of municipalities that seem to be choosing to be partners with the industry as the decline in residential construction reveals the challenges we both face when the cash is not flowing and the jobs are not being created.

May 13 - Wary homebuyers still smarting from GST

Professor Michael Smart's May 8 column in this newspaper gave readers the impression that builders and buyers should be lavishing praise on the Province for harmonizing the GST with the PST.

May 6 - HST threatening 20,000 housing jobs

Last week I highlighted the 2009 economic impact forecast for the new home building and renovation sectors in the GTA noting the $14.4 billion in investment, 141,400 person-years of employment (jobs), $7 billion in wages paid and $3.3 billion in taxes paid.

April 29 - Housing industry punches above weight

The number of construction cranes on the Toronto sky-line and the number of building material delivery trucks roaring around this spring is a good thing but should not be mistaken as a sign that all is well on the residential construction front.

April 22 - Green homes officially opened to public

I don't know what other events Deputy Premier and Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman had on his calendar for April 22 but I am very proud to say that he chose to start his Earth Day helping BILD and the Toronto Region Conservation Authority officially open the Archetype Sustainable House at the Kortright Centre.

April 15 - HST attacks middle class and families

I promise that I will stop writing about sales tax harmonization some day but the more information that comes to light, the more indignant I get.

April 8 - Harmonization like steroids to underground economy

If those who made the final decisions on the humungous sales tax thought they were neutralizing most of the backlash by exempting new homes under $400,000, concentrating the devastating impact on homebuyers in the Greater Toronto Area, they forgot that the tax will drive up the cost of professional renovations throughout the Province, angering contractors and homeowners alike.

April 1 - HST stands for HUMUNGOUS sales tax

There was good and bad news for new homebuyers in last week's provincial budget depending upon where you live.

March 25 - Harmonization math not adding up

By the time you read this column we should know exactly where things stand on the issue I have been obsessed with of late, namely GST/PST harmonization.


March 18 - Economic impact a two-way street

A very credible report on the economic impacts of residential construction landed on my desk this week. I'm sharing the results with readers as a matter of interest and to give you a break from my recent obsession with tax harmonization, although I can't resist a few last words on the topic before the provincial budget comes down next week (see below).

March 11 - Harmonization not yet ruled out

Whenever someone suggests to me that there's no way our provincial government would do something draconian, unfathomable or contradictory, I start to worry.

March 4 - New voluntary green label for low-rise builders

For years, ENERGY STAR was virtually the only game in town for low-rise new home builders looking to differentiate themselves in the market and respond to consumer demand for more energy-efficient new homes. Meanwhile LEED (short for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) had cornered the high-rise residential market on the green label front.

February 25 - Tax harmonization a 'no-brainer'

I have to admit that I get a real thrill when the bloggers comment on my columns, even if they disagree, which they often do. I was especially pleased when someone using the pseudonym "Smoothy" responded to my January 31 column on sales tax harmonization.

February 18 - Separating the renovation pros from the schmoes?

There once was a time when spring actually started in, well spring, but that was back in the day when you could drive the speed limit if you were going against the grain during rush hour.

February 11 - Time to turn red tape into red carpet

All of a sudden, everybody's talking about red tape, for better or worse. Politicians at all levels have figured out that the rules they have heaped on the private sector, particularly the development and building industry, are coming back to bite them as they try to get something done to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

February 4 - Lots of housing 'goodies' in federal budget

There's going to be a $3 billion home renovation bonanza in 2009 thanks to the recent federal budget as homeowners take advantage of the new Home Renovation Tax Credit to spruce up their homes, condos or cottages.

January 28 - Sales tax harmonization would hammer housing hard

Ever since the federal goods and services tax was introduced in 1991 there has been talk of "harmonizing" the GST with the respective provincial sales taxes.

January 21 - Development charges not adding up

Over the last several weeks, Toronto Mayor David Miller has kept a very high profile as he advocates for infrastructure funding in the upcoming federal budget. The Mayor is being appropriately pro-active by seeking external funding solutions to the financial challenges facing his City.

January 14 - Infrastructure best solution for economy